The Fifty Shades of Gray Phenomenon

I have no intention of seeing Fifty Shades of Gray, mainly because it’s not my kind of movie.  Besides, if I were going to watch S&M I’d rather not watch the Lifetime version of it.

Though what I find interesting is how well received the film has been, and that director Sam Taylor-Johnson is returning to direct the sequel, despite the difficulties she experience the first time around.

That being said, clearly there are millions of people who feel different because so far the movie has earned almost $500 million (the bulk of which, over $400 million, was from overseas.  It’s an important distinction because it implies that attitudes about sexuality in movies (and probably in general) are different in places like Europe and Latin America than they are domestically.

Another interesting thing is that–unlike most movie studios–Universal seems to be doing remarkably well with a strategy built around low-budget features, as opposed to other studios, which are built around expensive and massive tentpoles.

Though Universal’s strategy creates maximum profit at minimal cost, which is pretty remarkable.

Very generally speaking, movies that put sexuality forward tend to do better overseas than here.  Conversely, films that are action-heavy tend to do better here than they do in other countries.

Postmortem: Robocop (2014)

RoboCopI caught the reboot of Robocop in theaters, and recall at the time thinking that it was a bit weak, especially compared to the original film. That being said, having watched it again my first impression was confirmed, namely that it’s not as as engaging or as fun as the1987 Paul Verhoeven movie.  And speaking of Verhoeven’s film, a lot of the credit goes to its rating, which was a well-deserved R. While Robocop’s most recent build is PG-13, which means that it can’t be seen by anyone under 13 years of age without a parent or guardian. So it should go without saying that none of the delightfully gratuitous violence that graced the original will be anywhere near the reboot. And it suffers for it, though it also lacks the gonzo tone of the first movie.  Luckily, some of the central themes (the privatization of public utilities, such as the police, where the man begins, and machine ends, etc) remain intact, though often not quite as clearly defined as in the first movie (the heads of Omnicorp–as opposed to Omni Consumer Products in the original–in the reboot aren’t necessarily evil more than greedy, while their counterparts in the original film gave the phrase ‘severance package’ an entirely new meaning). That being said, the reboot does have some advantages that the first film doesn’t.

One being that the reboot looks more cinematic, somehow bigger and more ambitious–considering that the original cost $13 million to produce, while the reboot cost $100 million, it aught to look better (even in 1980’s dollars).  Considering how attractive the movie is, it looks like money well-spent.  It also takes advantage of the latest in CGI and motion capture technologies, techniques which weren’t available when the original film was made. Another thing is that the chemistry between the main actors is significantly better this time around.  In reference to the original the relationship between Murphy (Peter Weller) and Officer Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen) was serviceable, but never particularly convincing, while that between 2014’s Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) and Jack Lewis (Michael B. Williams) has much more in the way of camaraderie and comfort with each other, which is apparent on screen.

So if you go into Robocop (2014) and expecting the excesses of the original film–as I did when I first saw it–you’re going to be Robocop (1987)disappointed because there’re not too many directors that can beat Paul Verhoeven when it comes to over-the-top, subversive filmmaking. But if you haven’t seen the original film then José Padilha’s more conservative interpretation is actually pretty enjoyable. Robocop (1984) is currenty on Netflix

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 – Trailer 2

At first glance, I could easily understand why someone might think that Steve Pink‘s original Hot Tub Time Machine didn’t do well enough to warrant a sequel, having earned almost $65 million (on a $36 million budget).

But that would be ignoring a very significant point, namely that the movie was rated R, which means that its audience was limited to adults and couldn’t be attended by anyone under 17 without a parent or guardian.

So, when you look at it from that perspective, $65 million is a pretty decent outing.

The sequel looks to be as preposterous as the original, as Jacob, Nick and Lou have to once again use their hot tub time machine to save the day.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E – Official Trailer 1

While growing up, while I was aware of Napoleon Solo (otherwise known as The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) and Illya Kuryakin (originally played by Robert Vaughn and David McCallum in the television series), though I didn’t watch it, being instead a huge fan of The Avengers and Department S.

There’s already been a remake of The Avengers, and while the original series was so awesome I hope it’s revisited once again, it’s not likely to happen anytime soon.

The Avengers – Original series

I would post the trailer for the reboot of the British television series, except that it’s surprisingly difficult to find.  I mean, it was a pretty mediocre movie, but I didn’t think that it was so bad that the Internet would reject it.

As far as I know, no one has rebooted Department S, which is a pity because Johnny Depp, with his penchant for odd mustaches and the like, would be perfect as Jason King (Peter Wyngarde, who’s life is interesting enough to warrant a movie of its own).

That being said, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is being rebooted via Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes: Game Of Shadows) and it looks interesting despite the fact that the initial car chase brought back somewhat unwelcome memories of Speed Racer.

Furious 7 – Trailer 2

I haven’t seen any of The Fast and the Furious movies in their entirety (though I recall catching a snippet of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift when I was visiting my parents awhile ago) and had no intent of doing so.

I am also surprised to learn that there have only been three, excluding the latest movie.  And speaking of Furious 7, I have just seen the trailer and I might have to see at least one because it looks insane.

On top of that, it was directed by James Wan (Saw, Insidious, Dead Silence, etc), who’s always had an eye for interesting visuals.

And did I mention that on top of the regular cast, it stars Jason Statham as well as Kurt Russell?

And after all, it’s not as if I am not expecting Downton Abbey (thanks for that!) or anything.

Spider-Man Returns To The Marvel Cinematic Universe: The Morning After

Spider-Man, climbing

A few hours ago I wrote a piece for MoviePilot about Spider-Man’s return to the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), and overall I am pretty happy about the way things have turned out.  Technically speaking, it’s not quite Spider-Man returning to where he belongs, but under the circumstances it’s probably as good as it’s going to get.

That being said, there are caveats.  The most significant in my eyes being that Avi Arad is still going to be involved with the franchise, though in an Executive Producer capacity–prior he was a producer.  The problem is that Arad supposedly forced Sam Raimi to shoehorn in another villain to Spider-Man 3 (a move that pissed off Sam Raimi so much that he hired Topher Grace to play Eddie Brock/Venom for no other reason than Arad DIDN’T want him in the role) resulting in the the weakest of Raimi’s three Spider-Man movies, critically speaking–though in Arad’s defense, it was the highest grossing Spider-Man movie.

Another is that Kevin Feige is producing with Amy Pascal, the former Chairperson of Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE), who also produced Marc Webb’s tone deaf The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Despite TASM2 Webb is a pretty talented director, though perhaps not the right person for the franchise) and let Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman and their mediocre magic-blood filled writing virtually ruin the franchise.

Though hopefully Feige will be able to keep things under control, after all he has done exceedingly well guiding the course of the MCU (that being said, part of the deal is for the next Spider-Man to be produced by Sony–Feige and Pascal remaining as producers–with Spidey meeting with his compatriots from the Marvel’s end of the street, which begs the question:  With the contracts for many of the heavy-hitters in the MCU expiring (such as Robert Downey, Jr./Iron Man and Chris Evans/Captain America) then who is Sony expecting to turn up in their movie?

Though the best news of all is that this pretty much puts the kibosh on any Aunt May spy dramas that were under consideration by Sony.

Dead Snow 2: Red Vs. Dead -Review

Red Snow 2: Red Vs Dead movie poster

“Apparently, No One Told Director Tommy Wirkola That Sometimes Too Much Is Just Too Much.”

Have you ever known a person that you enjoyed being around, despite that they always seem to try way too hard to be the center of attention?

You may like them as an individual, but wish that they would just tone it down, if only a little bit?

Well, Tommy Wirkola‘s Dead Snow 2: Red Vs. Dead is the movie version of that friend.  The first Dead Snow was a pretty enjoyable horror movie and tribute to directors like George Romero, Sam Raimi, and John Carpenter (especially Carpenter, seeing that it was essentially a gorier, more humorous version of his 1979 movie, The Fog).

Unfortunately, the sequel tries way too hard, upping the ante by throwing in an evil arm (very Sam Raimi), and a troop of Russian zombies on top of the Nazi zombies that were raising Hell from the first movie.

But sometimes more isn’t better, it’s just more. In fact, when things really get moving you have to be amazed that he can even wrangle it all.

Despite the similarities to The Fog, it actually plays more like a  Sam Raimi movie–as opposed to something from John Carpenter, who takes his subject matter more seriously–who’s likely to mine horror for humor as much as violence.  Though there’s an important caveat:  When Raimi tends to do so the humor acts as a release valve (for tension), while in Wirkola’s case the effect is often the reverse.

In other words, while the humor and outrageousness are ramped up considerably, it’s typically at the cost of the horror.

Which is a pity because while the Nazis never needed help in being terrifying, very little of what made them so makes it intact to Tommy Wirkola’s movie.

 

Red Snow 2: Red Vs. Dead is currently on Netflix